Provided  by the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership

On Friday, May 13, the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership (ECIRP) entered into an official partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to implement regional investment through the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI).

“As we continue to build on the READI momentum with the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership, the IEDC remains a trusted partner, dedicated to ensuring projects are prioritized,” said Mark Wasky, IEDC’s senior vice president of community affairs. “Your region’s successes are Indiana’s successes, and we look forward to celebrating alongside of you as we progress through this transformational program.”

Launched by Gov. Holcomb and led by the IEDC, READI builds on the framework and successes of the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative and the 21st Century Talent Initiative, encouraging regional collaboration and data-driven, long-term planning that, when implemented, will attract and retain talent in Indiana.

The $500 million READI fund, passed by legislation during the 2021 session, utilizes federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies. The East Central Indiana Regional Partnership, which includes Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Grant, Jay, Henry, Randolph and Wayne counties, was awarded $15 million in READI funding at the end of 2021. The award, along with the public and private match dollars required through the READI program, will help support regional improvements across the eight county area.

Following the grant award, the READI Governing Body, which consists of two representatives from each participating county, began to prioritize regional projects based on the $15 million funding allocation. Each proposed effort included in the Forge Your Path Regional Development Plan was reviewed against established criteria including ARPA eligibility, regional impact, project funding and completion timelines. With the help and support of the IEDC, the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership and the READI Governing Body finalized a list of prioritized projects that will be reviewed and considered for READI funding.

“The READI initiative is a testament to the importance of regionalism and what we can accomplish by working together,” said Trevor Friedeberg, President & CEO of the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership. “We believe that our priority projects will help East Central Indiana to become the region of choice for talent and industry.”

Regional Housing & Commercial Development

Nearly 9,000 individuals commute into East Central Indiana for work on a daily basis with more than 1,800 of those individuals living in surrounding states. While vacant housing has increased from 11.1 percent in 2010 to 13.2 percent in 2021 and is projected to continue to rise, the vast majority of the region’s vacant homes are unsafe and/or too costly to renovate. The lack of attainable, safe, and desirable housing completely negates talent attraction efforts, which in turn thwarts attraction of new businesses and industries.

With READI investment in Delaware, Henry, Grant and Wayne counties, more than 150 acres will be shovel and move-in- ready for housing and commercial developments. More than 250 new market-rate housing units will focus on multi-family and single-family homes, both of which are in high demand.

Proposed Projects

• SR 109 Infrastructure Investment, Henry County

• McKinley-Whitely Live Learn Neighborhood, Muncie

• Albany Commercial Park Initiative

• Salem Township Shovel Ready Site Initiative

• Yorktown Downtown Revitalization

• Ridley Tower, Marion, IN

• Richmond Rising: Filling the Gap Workforce Housing

Regional Broadband

Data shows that 17.7 percent of East Central Indiana residents report lack of access to reliable and affordable high-speed (100/20 Mbps) broadband. Unequal access perpetuates unequal outcomes in education, work opportunities, digital literacy, business development, and attraction of remote workers. While a large number of providers exist, there are insufficient wireless and satellite services available for rural areas, which makes up the majority of the East Central Indiana region. It is difficult for low density areas to provide the required return-on-investment for most new terrestrial landline broadband networks.

READI investments in equitable high-speed broadband service in Blackford County is necessary to retain existing residents, attract new talent, and provide equitable education, employment, and business development opportunities, particularly in our rural areas.

Proposed Projects

• Blackford County Broadband Improvements

Early Childhood Education & Career Pipelines

A meaningful outcome requires significant work including strategic planning, project management, data analysis, communication, reporting and accountability. The plan to invest in both human and analytical infrastructure is necessary to scale talent innovation and equity of opportunity across the region.

READI investments in the East Central Indiana Talent Collaborative, Jay County Early Childhood Center Program, Randolph County 4H and Vision Corner Learning Center will allow the region to develop education and career pipelines, launch new programs and produce meaningful research and develop opportunities for upskilling and training. The projects will also fully engage and leverage the expertise of industry partners through the establishment of regional industry networks. Each network will work directly with the established cradle to career coalition and develop collaborative solutions to the shared workforce challenges.

Proposed Projects

• East Central Indiana Talent Collaborative

• Vision Corner Learning Center, Randolph County

• Randolph County 4-H Improvements

• Jay County Early Childhood Center Program

Quality of Place Improvements

Quality of place emphasizes features of the physical environment and characteristics that make a location a desirable, competitive, and economically vibrant place to live. The planning and maintenance of neighborhoods, transportation infrastructure, public education, healthcare, recreational assets, tourism features, and the natural environment play a major role in determining if a place is desirable to live or work.

READI investments in our region’s parks, open spaces, trails, downtowns and cultural art centers will strengthen our ability to attract, produce, and retain high-quality talent for current and prospective employers. Additionally, investment within our region’s cultural and recreational locations will provide unique opportunities for residents and regional visitors to create a lifetime of adventures and experiences within their local community.

Proposed Projects

• Market Street Plaza, Connersville, IN

• Grant County Performing Arts Center, Gas City, IN

• Selma Accessibility Improvements

• Salamonia Schoolhouse and Park Improvement Project

ECIRP will continue to work with the IEDC to finalize project information and begin submitting recommended projects to the state’s grant management tool for final review and approval.

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